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Drought 2017, S Central and SE England

Monday, January 9, 2017 9:18
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Tim writes,

This drought is largely about the area where I live except this is a water feeder area for large connurbations, Reading, London, Swindon. How severe this will be is open, and is a forewarning. Late rains might arrive, I hope so although regular minor droughts are part of weather, what makes climate, always has, always will.

I’m unable to go and take a photograph of the wier status quo (using crutches and a wheelchair), been eyeballed from the road, so you’ll have to take my word for the situation. (council have obstructed the footway, inaccessible to wheelchairs, no warning signs, typical England)


Image: Google dated 08/2016. River Kennet, navigable river at Newbury. Sluices highlighted.

The usual autumn and winter rains have failed this year. I’d noticed but now the Met Office figures are in and processed, river flow is low so I see trouble brewing for next summer.


Enlargement of highlighted, summer sluice position, one partially open and three fully shut. As of January 2017, after the autumn rains all sluices are closed instead of the expected spilling for normal autumn flood conditions.

The river level according to Environment Agency is 1.01m where the normal range is stated at 0.94 to 5.5m, the latter is a ridiculous figure.

Flooding is possible over 5.50m

The Environment Agency is demonstrating incompetence. Flooding will occur over 2m, over 1.8m I expect.

The level is in detail arbitrary since the river level is sluice controlled. Such an extreme level would take massive flooding over a large area. I’ve seen cloudbursts, local mayheim nothing on a wider scale.

See image/link at end.

Flooding was present in Newbury at 1.94m, the same kind of level as I recall during the 1960s and have seen photographs from 18xx also showing the same level. My benchmark is just above the town bridge.
or a private site gives better information

51.401874° -1.319766°

I’ve noticed the lack of autumn storms sweeping in from the Atlantic, frontal systems. This goes with the unusually prevalent blocking conditions, easterly winds and so on we have experienced for a long time now.


Based upon Met Office areal data. The natural annual variation has been processed out so the >2SD figure is fairly significant without being a major extreme. Two things to notice

  1. The figures I produce take into account normal annual variation (rainy season etc)
  2. In drought context duration matters


December 2016 the 8th driest month since 1910 according to my results. Notably the extremes all seem to occur during late autumn and early winter, annual randomness is strongest then.

Overall the UK was dry, slightly warm and with slightly above average sunshine duration. Only northern Scotland was notable, 20th warmest according to my figures.

Plots done for December download of PDFs here

Drought problem

The UK and England especially is a water poor part of the world, strange given how we are seen as always raining. Damp yes, amount of rain tends to small. We are ill set up for high rainfall when it occurs.

18.8mm of rain would not cover your feet; that’s for a month. We have had repeated drought in the south, always to claims something will be done to fix it. Nothing happens. We need more reservoirs or water piped in from a wetter area as was done for Manchester (lake district) and Birmingham (Wales).

2017, we shall see.


(c)1976 Thomas M N Clifford Old Town Bridge, Newbury, looking west. This is 200m upsteam from the river height gauge. You can see the Kennet and Avon canal lock gates through the arch. To get a level of 5.5m over flat land through the arch is impossible and even with spilling via the streets, the obstruction is major, it would take a massive level at the bridge. Nothing in the long written history mentions such extremes.
Upstream side of bridge

Today I read in a newspaper there is wailing in the Alps over a lack of snow cover because of a lack of rain, combined with a drought ban on the use of mains water for snow making machines.

This implies southern England and the Alps are seeing similar weather patterns, I would though expect the land in between to be very dry too. I’ve not seen that in print.

Post by Tim


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